It’s been two weeks since Halloween and the boys have quite a bit of candy left in their treat bags. In plain sight. I never believed in hiding sweets away. Encouragement to gorge on sweets? Nope. What’s the catch you ask? No catch.

If it has to be hidden it’s lacking an explanation. The “why not” discussions are a must. We started them when Tony was two and had his first taste of chocolate. Since then, we’ve had many conversations about sweets and their appeal. Which ebbs and flows with age, holidays, and possibly the morning mood. Like today for example.

“Can I take candy to school?” Tony asked.
“I’d rather you don’t. You can have some when you come home.”
This is the part where the loving gaze becomes the menacing glare.
“Why not? Kids have candy for snack…”

I carefully lay my answer in front of him like I would a sleeping baby.
“Candy is not snacking food. It is dessert and it should stay that way. Candy has lots of sugar in it and that makes your body less able to defend itself against winter bugs…It’s like having your arms tied and being attacked… ”

Cue rolling of the eyes. I am the candy witch. Again. So I know it when I see it. But can’t you see, I tell them, how children get sicker just as Halloween drags its long sweet tail around the corner? It’s always like that.

Since I never believed in saying “No” just because I have the power to do so, I am offering the reason. Again.
“You have cells defending your body against germs, like dedicated warriors, always on the job. But when you eat candy the warriors get all slugged and unfit to protect you for a few hours until the sugar gets out.”

The eye roll stops. Or so I think. They understand, but not succumbing to my argument completely, they throw a “Have it your way” kind of look over the table. We finish breakfast. Battle won, but the war… not quite.

Still, he doesn’t want to be the only health freak on a 10 mile radius, Tony explains. I love it when he characterizes my eating habits with those two words that seem to embrace each other as soon as he utters them like friends who have not seen each other in ages. Same oomph of a hug… It is hard being a pre-teen and belonging to a mom like me. At times. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. The witch.

I know, don’t you think I don’t. Being an adult means I can make choices without ever feeling any peer pressure or becoming the target of silly jokes. Children have hard time holding their ground that way. My boys included.

I explain to them how we have to be choosy with everything that we eat. You eat garbage, your body will behave accordingly, it’s a fact. Healthy and ethically is a good start when choosing food. Not shoving kale chips down their throats – though I do make that and at least one of them approves of it – for now, hoping to recruit the other soon…Treats are yummy, I know that, but I don’t approve of plain sugar dipped in questionable colors to pass as a treat. Regular – call it mainstream – chocolate comes with a bitter price. Unless it’s fairly-traded (third party verified if possible) chocolate consumption encourages child labor. Unfair? To say the least. Would you ever approve of your children or children you know working in the field all day, hungry and underpaid? Thought so. I wouldn’t either. It’s easier to say no when you have an image attached to a questionable treat.

The time will come for my boys to make choices of their own. I want them to know why they’ll say no if it’s a no. Not to simply comply, a destructive attitude in itself, but to question what’s being offered and refuse if their better judgment says so. In time, that will also shape the offer. And their offer is affecting more than just themselves and the shelves of the closest grocery store. It’s the community they live in, their well-being, the environment and future generations. The ripple effect indeed.

I am not opposed to treats. Yet accepting sweet stuff that someone labeled “candy” and made it look appealing to my children? Never, unless I know what’s in it. Most mainstream sweets contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is one of the hidden causes for obesity and insulin resistance and many contain food coloring that may or may not have been tested properly. Like I said, saying no when you know the facts becomes but a logical thing.

There is nothing evil about sweets, but like with everything else, reaching for good quality is the way to go. Cheapness, abundance and low standards though, a different story. A deceptively bitter one.